Saturday, December 29, 2007

Injustice, Meaning and Purpose

Barbara Jamison led a seminar studying two letters from the Universal House of Justice. The first was written December 21, 2006 to the Baha'is of Egypt, and the second was written September 9, 2007 to Baha'i students deprived of access to higher education in Iran. Both of these communities have a long history of repression at the hands of the governments of their lands.

In Egypt, the constitution recognizes only Judaism, Christianity and Islam as official religions, and only citizens who declare one of these as their religion are given the state issued ID cards which gives them rights as citizens. The Baha'is are not asking for official recognition as a religion, but rather to be allowed to receive ID cards without having to lie about their religion. The case is schedule to be heard (again) by the courts in Egypt in January.

In Iran, the government has for at least three decades denied Baha'is access to higher education. The case has been taken up by the United Nations and many groups and organizations around the world have voiced their concern. Iran remains recalcitrant in its position.

The letters to these two communities both outlined the issues, the history behind the issues, and then provided encouragement to those communities in the actions they are to take while suffering under the yoke of oppression. I'll have to admit, it's not your average bit of instruction.

In the case of the Baha'is of Egypt, after outlining the history of the oppression, the Universal House of Justice calls upon the Baha'is to view their plight as a part of the injustice suffered by peoples throughout the world.

This is no time, however, to dwell on a litany of vexations your community has for so long sustained. It is, rather, an appropriate occasion for reflection on the broad context in which the recent action of the Supreme Administrative Court occur ed, that from it you may derive an ever-larger sense of meaning and purpose.

Injustice is rife. Throughout the world it afflicts every department of life whether in the home, at the workplace, or in the public sphere as a consequence of the ill conduct of individuals, groups, or governments. Lamenting the horrors it breeds, Baha'u'llah made this poignant remark: "Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. The thick clouds of tyranny have darkened the face of the earth, and enveloped its peoples." So grave a situation exists at a time of unprecedented change: opposite processes of chaos and of order interact in a spiral of turbulence that signals a transition in the spiritual and social agenda of the world as a whole.

Human society has arrived at a stage in its evolution when unity of the whole human race is imperative. to not appreciate this reality is to not grasp the meaning of the current crisis in world affairs. The principle of the oneness of humankind identifies the code of resolving the far-reaching issues involved. As Baha'is, you understand that this principle implies not only the ultimate peaceful goal that it signifies but involves, as well, your participation in the painful tasks entailed in attaining it. Hence, you appreciate the global connotations of instances of oppression at home or abroad and accept the responsibility of striving, guided by the principles of the Faith and in collaboration with others whenever possible, to combat injustice, for the common good.
So, the call is not to just battle your own oppression, but to accept the responsibility and the painful task of striving to combat injustice for the common good. Attention is then turned to the groups in Egypt who are supporting the Baha'is, and the ultimate destiny of Egypt.

Those groups supporting you in your current encounter are of a world-embracing vision and are themselves prepared to withstand the harsh resistance to their selfless occupation, sustaining blows of injustice in the process. As the rise of justice ensures the appearance of unity in the world, all who take on the formidable challenges of struggling for it have indeed captured the spirit of the age epitomized in the principle of oneness. to the extent that the fight for justice contributes to the establishment of a single global standard of human rights, the organizations in Egypt so engaged are working towards achieving the unification of their nation's peoples. They are thus committing themselves in large measure to the vital task of reconciling the tensions that bedevil their society and delay the attainment of its unity. Such reconciliation should not be impossible to Egypt's people, who can take pride in the celebrated enlightenment that in a glorious past ensured their unity in a flourishing society. Undoubtedly, Egypt will rise to participate, as befits its stature, in the fruition of that destiny of world peace and prosperity of which all nations dream.

1 comment:

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Thanks for posting this series of thought provoking articles, David. It feels good to engage the brain in some other gear than politics and petty arguments over turf.